Thursday, August 19, 2010
This week’s Comic Book Review Power Rankings are coming to you a few hours later than usual, so let’s skip the pleasantries and get right down to the reviews!
For the uninitiated, the Comic Book Review Power Rankings is a countdown from worst-to-best of my weekly comic book haul. Before reading the issues, I preRank them based on the creative team, previous issues, solicitations, and gut instinct. The final Ranking number is based upon how the issues actually turned out. I attempt to keep everything as spoiler free as possible, but keep in mind that there may be the occasional minor spoiler that I overlook. As always, I can be reached via responses to this thread or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a final reminder, I will be attending Wizard World Chicago on Saturday and would love to meet any loyal Rankings readers. If you plan on attending the show, let me know!
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Whilce Portacio, Leonard Kirk, Ed Tadeo, Jay Leisten, and Brian Reber
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson
In this week’s Uncanny X-Men, members of the team track down the second “new mutant” in Mexico, where Hope must once again intervene to save the newest member of the species. Meanwhile, Emma Frost is clearly up to something devious as she meets with Tony Stark and Namor, while being apparently pissed off at Wolverine about something.
Verdict: Avoid It. My love of the X-Men really makes me want to enjoy this issue more than I do. The problem is that Matt Fraction still has yet to find the best way to approach an X-Men story, so this issue is plagued with the same disjointed approach that caused me to drop the series a year ago. He seems to understand most of the characters and I know he can be one hell of a writer, but he just can’t seem to make it work with this title. Of course, this particular issue isn’t helped by the fact that Emma Frost is simply so unlikable in this issue that it is impossible to become invested in the story. The real problem, though, is the art. Half of the time it looks completely unfinished and the rest of the time it is so unpolished that it is baffling unprofessional. There are maybe two or three panels in this entire issue that work for me. Unfortunately, from start to finish, this entire issue is simply disappointing.
Written by Sterling Gates
Art by Jamal Igle, John Dell, Marc Deering, Richard Friend, Jamie Grant, and Jim Devlin
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Amy Reeder, Richard Friend, and Guy Major
After apparently falling victim to Bizarrogirl’s “solid vision,” Supergirl battles back with the help of Dr. Light (not the rape-y one) before coming up with some sort of hair-brained scheme to head off to Bizarroworld. Yes, that is a spoiler, but I only bring it up so I can remind everyone of the awesome the Geoff Johns/Eric Powell Bizarroworld story from a few years back.
Verdict: Byrne It. There are definitely some cool things going on in this issue that make it worth a word; unfortunately, the craftsmanship around those things simply isn’t up to snuff for this title. For starters, Sterling Gates really gets tripped up with the Bizarro-speak. Few writers have ever been able to really make that work, but the “opposites” formula that Gates uses gets lost at some points, making some scenes lose a lot of their impact and, in some cases, meaning. The rest of the issue is built around action, so Gates’s writing heads into “quip-mode,” which works well, but lacks the personality that I know he is capable of showcasing. That leaves a lot of the storytelling to the art which, unfortunately, is not the finest work I’ve seen in a Jamal Igle comic, though I wouldn’t put any of the blame on him personally. Instead, I’ll point out how the three inkers and two colorists simply run roughshod over the art, taking some very strong linework and turning it into an inconsistent mess that simply does not live up to Igle’s standards. Plus, seriously, why is Bizarrogirl colored like a regular human? That looks simply horrible and is totally inconsistent with how Bizarros are portrayed elsewhere in the comic. I see this issue as a means to a hopefully more awesome ends, but as a single issue, it’s a total misstep for an extremely talented creative team.
Written by Christos N. Gage
Art by Sergio Carrera and Peter Dawes
Letters by Chris Mowry
Covers by Antonio Fuso and Ben Templesmith
As Scoop is further indoctrinated into The Coil, he is told the origin of one of the more ridiculous Cobra operatives, Croc Master. This reimagining is tremendously creepy and littered with dead bodies as Croc Master goes from abused swamp dwelling hillbilly to eco-terrorist before joining the mysterious snake-centric cult.
Verdict: Check It. I will definitely say that Christos Gage is doing a great job at taking some of the more absurd characters from GI Joe and crafting some really great reinterpretations. I really dig the concept of Croc Master here and his origin is tremendously interesting, though the fact that it is told in almost pure exposition is a little grating. I don’t think I would have noticed if the dialogue didn’t get so heavy during the latter parts of the origin—you go from being told a story to being waist-deep in very thick exchanges, which completely throws off the pacing of the issue. While there are some pacing issues that need to be overcome, the story is still interesting enough to keep me hooked, while the art really let me down. Sergio Carrera has good storytelling in his art, but the execution still doesn’t work for me. There is an extreme lack of detail and depth in his art that really accentuates how poor his expressions are—piling one issue on top of another and another. I think that a separate inker to add the details and depth that this issue is missing would go a long way at making it more successful. Plus, the weird textures in the colors make everything look even more unnatural. In the end, you’ve got a solid story that could use a bit of tweaking, but what really holds this issue back is the art.
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Mike Deodato Jr. and Rain Beredo
Letters by Dave Lanphear
Cover by Marko Djurdjevic
In the conclusion to the first Secret Avengers arc, Captain America borrows the Nova Force from Worldmind in order to battle the power-mad Serpent Crown-entranced Nova, while Ant-Man shows some surprising resiliency to stop the Shadow Council’s treacherous plans.
Verdict: Check It. This is a major step up from issues #2 and #3, which were complete bombs (despite the strength of the debut issue), but it still suffers from a lot of the problems that held those issues back. I really dig Captain America being a momentary Nova Corps deputy, but the ease in which he takes on and controls the Worldmind’s power really undercuts how special Nova is. This was a cool moment and I definitely want a Captain America Nova action figure, but I feel like it could have been handled in a way that built up both characters. The character work on the supporting cast is a bit shaky, though it doesn’t help that characters like Valkyrie and War Machine only have a line or two each—of course, having a line or two is a step up from being completely written out as they were in previous issues. The mystery behind the Shadow Council is more frustrating than ever, as it just doesn’t gel as well with the cosmic bits and there isn’t much to latch onto amidst the action. The art, however, is amazing. Mike Deodato really steps up his storytelling with some awesome layouts, strong progression, and great expressions. I also really dig his use of shadow and negative space throughout the issue. Even when the story falters, the art looks fantastic and that alone nearly earned this issue a Buy It verdict. I’m back on board with Secret Avengers for at least one or two more issues, but I still say its on probation until Ed Brubaker can fully utilize the cast.
Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Kev Walker and Frank Martin
Letters by Albert Deschesne
Cover by Marko Djurdjevic
In what is advertised as a crossover with Avengers Academy, the Thunderbolts battle some monsters, then find themselves in the midst of a riot/breakout on the Raft thanks to the actions taken by Hazmat in Avengers Academy #3 (more on that later). Lots of action ensues, though if you were expecting a conventional crossover with the other title, you will be disappointed as this is more of a “parallel story.”.
Verdict: Buy It. I’ll admit, I am a little annoyed that we got a bait-and-switch from Marvel as this issue doesn’t continue the action of Avengers Academy #3, but instead happens alongside it and, ultimately, spoils some of the action of the yet-to-be-released Avengers Academy #4. That being said, this is a fun read. It’s a very loose, somewhat shallow action issue, but its fast pace and memorable moments kept my interest all along. I especially enjoyed Juggernaut’s “interaction” with the Raft’s inmates, which was compelling enough to make me consider picking up this series just to see more of him in action. Some of the quipping was cringe-worthy though, especially Luke Cage yelling things like “Say my name!” Oi. Artist Kev Walker was really hitting his stride when his tenure on Guardians of the Galaxy was up, but a lot of the improvement we saw in that series carries over here with his hyper-stylized, very fluid art. His designs were fantastic and his unique approach to storytelling was a major part of this issues success. This issue is worth the cover price alone simply for the “stacked action” pages, which had Walker illustrating three fights parallel to one another across some excellent spreads. Is this the issue I was hoping for? Nope. Is it a continuation of Avengers Academy #3? Not really. Is it still worth your cash? Most definitely.
Lead Written by David Hine
Lead Art by Moritat and Andre Szymanowicz
Backup Written by David Lapham
Backup Art by Michael William Kaluta
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by Ladronn
In the lead story, Spirit rushes across a frozen Central City to save Ebony from overdosing on Frost, but must also tangle with hundreds of crooks out to kill him when a price is put on his head. In the black-and-white backup, the Spirit tries to stop Central City from becoming the murder capital of the US for the 8th year on a row as a religious serial killer looks to strike on New Year’s Eve.
Verdict: Must Read. The lead in this issue is an excellent chase story with a lot of fun twist and turns as Spirit rushes to save Ebony. David Hine does a great job plotting this story methodically, while still allowing some space for strong character work. His unique sense of voice and atmosphere is perfect for the Spirit and this story is a fine showcase of both. In terms of art, Moritat and Andre Szymanowicz (with help from Gabe Bautista) show fantastic range as they utilize multiple styles to emphasize the effects that the drug is having on Ebony. There is better control in the art than I think I have ever seen from Moritat’s work with very strong details, great consistency, and some very clean colors. I always dig his work, but I’m really impressed with what we see here. The fast-paced backup story is a nice compliment to the main story thematically, with David Lapham doing a great job of balancing humor and absurdity against the very serious reality of the story’s implications. Artist Michael William Kaluta toes a similar line with his art that is just loose enough to match the fun, but features strong enough storytelling and expressions to handle the grave final few pages. Overall, this is probably the most well-rounded issue that this series has seen with two tremendously strong stories that work well together and are a fine showcase of how good this series can be.
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Davide Gianfelice and Dave McCaig
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Ron Garney and Morry Hollowell
In the final issue of Wolverine: Weapon X, Logan must transport an imported concert piano to a monastery secluded in the mountains to fulfill the last wishes of the recently deceased Nightcrawler. Along the way, he reflects upon their friendship and his own contempt for his friend’s continued faith despite all of the horrors they had witnessed in their years together.
Verdict: Must Read. Jason Aaron has a fantastic fundamental understanding for the two main characters and what makes their friendship so unique, which is the focal point of this issue’s success. This is a fantastic retrospective that turns a relatively simple plot with direct storytelling into one of the more emotionally charged and impactful issues I’ve read this year. Aaron does a great job of balancing the heavier issues in this story against humor in a way that perfectly fits the tone of this story and the characters that it revolves around. It’s a simply fantastic story that could easily go down as one of the most well-written Wolverine stories in years. Unfortunately, the art simply cannot live up to the script, which is perhaps the only reason that this is not the Book of the Week. Davide Gianfelice’s work is entirely too loose, with characters seeming to shift anatomically throughout the issue and his designs in general really aren’t that appealing. When the characters are in costume, they do fare considerably better, but as a whole, the art is surprisingly weak. In the end, the fact that this book remains a Must Read despite the art is truly a testament to how wonderful the script is.
Written by Christos Gage
Art by Mike McKone, Andrew Hennessy, and Jeromy Cox
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Mike McKone
In the first part of the non-crossover with Thunderbolts, the cadets of the Avengers Academy are put in a “Scared Straight” program at the Raft that goes terribly wrong with some of them decide that they want revenge against Norman Osborn. Plus, we get to see the origin of Hazmat, which is eerily similar to Rogue’s origin in the first X-Men movie.
Verdict: Must Read. I think this might be my favorite book at Marvel right now (as long as you don’t count Thor: Mighty Avenger) and this issue is another great example of why. Christos Gage does a great job with this well-paced story that covers a lot of ground and a number of threads for this title’s rather large cast. His work with all of the characters, including the special guests, is simply fantastic. I was especially impressed with how much more we learn about Mettle despite his limited number of lines, though Valkyrie steals the show with her “education” for the female members of the team. This issue has humor, intrigue, action, and some rather disturbing twists that won me over early on and kept my interest throughout. Mike McKone is joined by inker Andrew Hennessey here, so the art does have a subtle shift from the first two issues, but it looks just as great thanks to the strong designs and extremely clean storytelling. The expressions aren’t quite as strong as they were in issue #2, but kudos to McKone for focusing so much on body language to tell the story. This issue was really close to nabbing the top spot on the Rankings this week and missed not by any fault of its own, but rather by the extreme awesomeness of this week’s top book. In other words, there is absolutely no acceptable reason for you not to pick up this issue.
Written by John Ostrander
Art by Jan Duursema, Dan Parsons, and Brad Anderson
Letters by Michael Heisler
Cover by Sean Cooke and Jan Duursema
In the finale to Star Wars: Legacy, Cade must save the planet Utapau from the Sith, Princess Marisiah must be saved, and the not-so-dead Darth Krayt must reveal his new master plan that will inevitably lead to the follow-up miniseries that closes out the story. Do all of these things happen? Maybe you should just read it to find out.
Verdict: Must Read. This comic is the epitome of epic in every single way, shape, and form. The sheer scope of the story that John Ostrander and Jan Duursema tell in this issue is simply staggering. You really have to hand it to the creative team for how well this issue is plotted because they cover so much ground here without shortchanging any of this issue’s many, many, many plots. Every single page has a new twist and turn for these stories and every single page is filled with personality. Ostrander puts on a viritual clinic for handling a large cast in this issue as everyone gets a chance to shine, no matter how much dialogue they get. The art team also really steps it up here as this is easily the best looking issue that this series has ever seen. I absolutely love how well Duursema’s linework is accented by the strong inks by Dan Parsons, whose varied inks are just tremendous. In some places, you can see the brush strokes, while in others, the inks are super tight, all depending on what is needed to make the art pop. Brad Anderson’s colors are equally as effective as he captures the mood perfectly while keeping this completely in line aesthetically with the look and feel of the Star Wars Universe. This issue is all about impact in every single scene and in every single aspect of its craft. It took Star Wars: Legacy 50 issues to reach the top of the Rankings, but it was well worth the wait as this is not only the Book of the Week, but one of the best comics of the year.